Rivals duel over legal aid

Susan Sykes.
Susan Sykes.
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Tory and Labour city councillors have clashed during a heated debate over legal aid.

Conservatives slated their Labour rivals for suggesting the council should complain to the Government about a planned £350m cut to the legal aid budget.

Coun Susan Sykes called the debate “a waste of time” while Tory leader Coun Peter Williamson accused Labour of “a political ploy”.

But Labour councillor Ian Pattison said: “We have lots of vulnerable people in the West End who will suffer because of this.”

His colleague Coun Josh Bancroft said Coun Sykes’ remarks were “absolutely disgraceful”.

Independent councillor Geoff Marsland said: “When you cut back on this kind of thing you hit the people who are least able to afford justice.”

Chris Grayling, the Secretary of State for Justice, announced earlier this month that households with more than £3,000 per month of disposable income, prisoners and immigrants who had been in the country for less than a year would no longer be able to access legal aid.

Following the debate, councillors agreed by a majority vote to write to the Justice Minister to ask him to reconsider.